TWENTY years ago the world was stunned by news that Roslin scientists had won the race to clone the first mammal from an adult cell.
Dolly the Sheep and her Midlothian birthplace became the focus of global attention. Suddenly the name ‘Roslin’ - until then better known as the village location for the famous Rosslyn Chapel - became a by-word for science, innovation and discovery. Now there’s a fresh reason for the international animal bioscience community to sit up and take notice.
The new £30m Roslin Innovation Centre opened for business in August, creating a multi-purpose, multi-occupancy gateway to the largest concentration of animal related expertise in Europe - the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus in Midlothian.
Intended to connect clinical teaching, research and commercialisation in a space designed to inspire innovation and collaboration, the centre has already attracted bioscience businesses keen to tap into the wealth of expertise that emanates from the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The Roslin Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), all at the heart of the ‘Midlothian Science Zone’.
John Mackenzie, CEO of Roslin Innovation Centre, is already looking forward to achieving over 60 per cent occupancy by next summer; by then, 12 innovative businesses in agritech, animal bioscience and One Health (which studies the intersection of human, animal and environmental sciences) will have laid down roots there.
“Within three months of opening we had seven tenants,” he said. “And already another five are lined up – two of which will be major anchor tenants.
“Given the level of enquiries we’re receiving at the moment and the interest that is being generated, I’m confident that by this time next year we will be three quarters full.
“By any incubator/innovation industry standard this is very good,” he added. “But I have always been very positive in what is happening at the Easter Bush Campus so I’m not surprised.”
While the numbers are impressive, what’s vitally important is that the businesses arriving at Roslin Innovation Centre have been the right ones.
“There have been times when I’ve had to turn potential tenants away simply because they don’t fit our criteria,” explains Mackenzie. “We’ve been holding out for the right type of client, that recognises our tenant value proposition.”
And what we have at the Easter Bush Campus is a remarkable combination of academic talent, investment, enterprise and infrastructure, located within an area which is positioning itself as an internationally significant location for scientific advancement.
Midlothian is at the heart of a growing cluster of bioscience and agritech organisations, represented by the newly launched Midlothian Science Zone (MSZ). Supported by Midlothian Council and partners, it aims to increase levels of collaboration between academia and business, whilst raising the profile of the area’s world-leading research and access to state-of-the-art facilities.
Pentlands Science Park, Edinburgh Technopole and the Midlothian BioCampus are all on the new innovation centre’s doorstep.
It means it is perfectly positioned to offer enterprising bioscience businesses access to a multidisciplinary group of animal scientists with unrivalled expertise and focus on some of the biggest questions facing the planet – from animal genetics to how we may feed a growing global population.
Nurturing collaboration is at the heart of the innovation centre, which provides 41,000 sq ft of flexible laboratory and office space and a Campus Hub, including the Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre and a gym.
“The combination that we have is very rare,” adds Mackenzie. “There’s nothing novel about being an innovation centre, but the other ingredients we offer here make us quite unique.”
Businesses which have already taken up residency at Roslin Innovation Centre include Synpromics Ltd, a leading synthetic promoter and gene control company which currently has over ten active commercial gene therapy programmes and five bioprocessing programmes underway.
Roslin Technologies, meanwhile, a joint venture between the University of Edinburgh, two external investors and commercialisation partners, aims to commercialise the intellectual property and know-how of The Roslin Institute and The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, the UK’s leading vet school, revolutionising agricultural productivity on a global scale through ground-breaking science.
Glen Illing, CEO of Roslin Technologies, said: “Being in the midst of a burgeoning community of animal health spin out and spin in companies that are attracted to the Roslin Innovation Centre is the perfect place for us to locate.”
Mackenzie added: “Scotland punches well above its weight internationally in Life Sciences. Animal health, agriculture and aquaculture (A3) make up three of the seven sub sectors of Scottish life sciences and Easter Bush already has the highest concentration of animal health expertise anywhere in Europe.
“With an extra 2.7 billion people on the planet projected by 2050, the market drivers are clearly there for Scotland to innovate in Food Security, which together with Environmental Security and Cyber Security make up the three biggest challenges and threats for our generation and generations to come. “With Roslin Innovation Centre as the gateway to the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus, located in the Midlothian Science Zone (MSZ), Scotland is uniquely placed to be world leading in this specific ‘Triple A’ category.
“By taking advantage of this opportunity and realising such an ambition, A3 will be contributing its own fair share towards reaching Scotland's Life Sciences sector £8 billion goal by 2025.”
For more information on the Roslin Innovation Centre, visit www.roslininnovationcentre.com